Review: 'Fatal Affair'
If you know one thing about me, you know how much I despise spoilers.
What follows isn’t so much a plot spoiler as much as a consumer alert: Technically, there's more of a brief encounter than an actual affair implied in the saucy movie title Fatal Affair.
So, let’s begin with that point.
While the movie opens with some steamy love scenes and a jolting flash of violence, it’s all backstory intended to lure the audience into the dark, erotic world of the psycho thriller.
The title is obviously derived from Adrian Lyne’s 1987 hit drama thriller Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close.
Comparisons between the two movies pretty much end there.
In order to freshen things up a bit, Fatal Affair features a largely African-American cast.
The role of the psycho killer shifts from the bunny boiling nut case played by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction to a marginally creepy, professional computer hacker played by Omar Epps who seems to be channeling the evil, malevolent side of Wesley Snipes.
As is often the case, stories like this involve upper income families living in a soap opera world, complete with the to-die-for dream beach house and covet-thy-neighbor’s luxury cars (I suspect that Lexus kicked in some product placement money).
It’s a world of successful, professional people whose lives are just this side of being happily fulfilled.
In this instance, the attractive wife (Ellie, played by Nia Long) is an attractive lawyer who is feeling distanced from her athletic architect husband (Marcus, played by Stephen Bishop).
She’s looking for some thrills to spark up her life.
Enter a former college friend (David) harboring a long-standing, festering romantic obsession to be with her.
What follows, remarkably quickly, is a sizzling hot encounter in the posh ladies restroom of a lively dance club that falls short of full out culmination.
Still, it’s enough surveillance camera action to be illegally hacked and used to turn Ellie’s life into a living hell.
What’s puzzling is that she seems to have the legal chops required to deal with the threats and attempted blackmail of a deranged stalker.
But that never happens.
Even worse, she makes some missteps along the way that only make matters worse.
All in all, it is mostly soap opera level drama based on every worn-out erotic thriller cliché in the books.
Fatal Affair is a classic example of by-the-numbers scriptwriting and filmmaking. We’ve seen it all before, and we’ve seen it done much better.
Years ago, Netflix gained a reputation of greenlighting an ambitious number of projects, even before the pandemic rose its ugly head.
It seemed to be a strategy based on quantity and not quality.
Fatal Affair seems to have been part of this mix.
It incorporates many of the elements and details that made other, better thrillers work, but lacks the spark that made the better ones so much better.
It’s a movie counting on eye candy to pull it through, the good-looking cast, the beautiful settings and all the trappings of affluence and wealth. That, it has.
What it lacks is any shred of originality.
It occurred to me that someone like Mel Brooks could take all the cliché scenes and dialog that we’ve seen in so many thrillers like this and turn them into a great parody, like he did with genre-skewering movies like Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), High Anxiety (1977) or Spaceballs (1987).
All the overused clichés are here.
The obligatory shower scenes, crackling fireplaces, scarily-dark rooms, scandalous surveillance photos and videos, butcher knives, you name it.
Did I mention the cheesy Hitchcock-inspired cliff-hanger ending?
The only thing missing is the laughter.
Maybe the great erotic thrillers have all been made.
Can anyone top movies like American Gigolo (1980), Body Heat (1981) Single White Female (1992), or Basic Instinct (1992).
Maybe it’s time to move to the final stage of genre evolution: the movie parody, where we can finally take stock and find some humor in all those scenes that have been repeated and recycled to the point of exhaustion.
Fatal Affair is on Netflix now.